Monarch launches first commercial "driver-optional" electric tractor
After two years of development, California startup Monarch Tractor has launched the AI-packing, all-electric MK-V Founder Series, and announced deliveries to its first customer – wine and spirits producer Constellation Brands.
The Monarch electric tractor has been developed to help in the decarbonization of farming operations, with the company saying that replacing a comparable diesel tractor with one of its models is equivalent to removing 14 combustion-engine passenger vehicles from the road.
And since they're "essentially roving robots packing supercomputing" – as Nvidia puts it – they can also help to address labor shortages in agriculture.
The MK-V can serve as a farm tractor or general utility vehicle, and delivers 52-kW (70 hp) of peak motor power to the tractor's four wheels. It boasts nine forward gears and three reverse, with clutch control, and the battery pack has an estimated run time of 14 hours, depending on the farm conditions and how it's used.
If longer continuous operations are required, the battery can be removed and a fresh one popped in. As an added bonus, the tractor could also serve as a power source for tools and equipment in the field.
The MK-V has a base weight of 5,200 lb (2,360 kg), a towing capacity of 5,500 lb (2,500 kg), a hitch lift capacity of 1,650 lb (750 kg), and a turning radius of just under 9 ft (2.9 m). Dual-band Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity modules are cooked in, plus LoRa radio, and over-the-air software updates are supported to keep the system up to date.
Under the hood, the MK-V boasts six Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX system-on-modules along with two 3D cameras and six imaging cameras. This allows the vehicle to provide driver-assist or undertake pre-programmed operations sans driver, and even has a shadow mode where it follows the worker at a safe distance.
The tractor's systems can also gather and analyze daily crop data for "real-time implement adjustments, long-term yield estimates, current growth stages and other plant/crop health metrics."
Collision prevention is included, it will come to a complete stop if a person is detected within 5 ft (1.5 m) of the vehicle, and will automatically shut down the system if a human limb is detected within a foot (0.3 m) of the power take-off.
The rollout of the MK-V follows a successful 2021 pilot run at Wente Vineyards on the company's home turf of Livermore, California. Now Founder Series tractors are on their way to Constellation Brands, Monarch says that other family farms and large corporate customers are next in line for the MK-V – pricing starts at US$68,000. The video below has more.
Source: Monarch Tractor